Writer responds to backlash against student neighborhood column
By: Adanna Smith – Senior, Biology
As I sit here and write this article, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my frustration at a trend I have seen on campus. It seems to me that when black students on this campus decide to stand up or speak out against something that is important to them, we are met with high disapproval ratings. I saw this trend last year during the Black Lives Matter protest, I see it when people realize that there are organizations and services on campus that are intentional about supporting black students, and I undoubtedly noticed it when my fellow classmate Kwynn Townsend-Riley wrote her piece about calling the student neighborhood a “ghetto.”
Why is it that when black students bring light to issues we are “ignorant,” “misinformed” or, my favorite one, “RACIST”? Let’s be very clear: Just because someone offers a new perspective or provides you with information you don’t agree with does not make them misinformed. Standing up for BLACK issues and uplifting BLACK people does not in any way, shape or form mean that black people are racist. What it does mean is that we have to take extra steps to make sure that we remain uplifted and empowered in the face of opposition. We will continue to speak up and speak out. We will never be silent! No matter how many times we are reminded that we “only” make up three percent of this campus’s population. No matter how many times we are told we don’t belong. No matter how many times people try to derail, diminish or destroy a movement put in place to empower those who are told they are powerless. We will make sure our voices are heard.
I read Kwynn’s articles and thought to myself, “Thank God there is someone out there willing to take the time to inform people about why calling the luxurious student neighborhood that houses an overwhelming affluent demographic of students a ‘ghetto’ is asinine and offensive.” So, imagine how shocked I was to see and hear such negative pushback.
Everyone likes to pretend the word “ghetto” is a word of the past, or that it was only ever used to describe Jewish living arrangements during the Holocaust. However, people like to conveniently forget what racial implications lie behind the more modern use of the term. When someone says that something or someone is “ghetto,” it is usually stated as an insult and aimed at black people. It is sometimes used to describe other low-income minorities. But I can guarantee it is never used toward affluent white people. The word “ghetto” is not only used to describe low-income living arrangements, but it is also used to describe black features, mannerisms or habits that have not yet been deemed a societal norm. In other words, white people have not yet appropriated it. The word is offensive, and it is not all of a sudden this wonderful synonym for community because a group of affluent people “like the way it sounds.” The term “ghetto,” both in the present and past sense, is a symbol of oppression—not unification. If I walk down the street and call you ugly, and then justify my statement by saying, “Well, when I say ‘ugly,’ what I really mean is pretty,” it does not change the meaning or impact of the word. The term “ghetto” is an ugly word, and—no matter how hard anyone tries—they can never make it have a pretty meaning.
It is way past time for people on this campus to start checking their privilege. Next time you think to try and invalidate the experiences or feelings of someone else, check yourself. Why aren’t you angry about the actual issue, but rather at the idea that you may have to change something you are used to in order to benefit everyone and not just almost everyone? What have you accomplished by demeaning someone for speaking about their experiences? Why don’t you take the time to listen with the intent to understand what black students are saying, rather than listening with the intent to maliciously respond?
So, Ms. Kwynn, I would just like to say thank you for stepping up and speaking out. You have my unyielding support. You are not alone! I am here and so are plenty of other people. I am willing to stand with you, for you, behind you or beside you. With that being said, I would just like to correct one thing from your last article, though: If anyone has anything to say to US…WHAT’S GOOD?!
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